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Protesters target Brunei-owned Dorchester Hotel over anti-gay sharia laws

Led by human rights activist Peter Tatchell, several hundred people gathered outside the hotel

AFP | PTI  |  London 

dorchester hotel, london
Dorchester hotel, London. (Photo: Dorchester website)A tough penal code in the tiny country on tropical Borneo island -- ruled by the all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah -- came fully into force last Wednesday after several years of delay

Hundreds of anti-discrimination demonstrators massed on Saturday outside the Brunei-owned luxury Hotel in over the southeast Asian country's adoption of harsh new laws, including the death penalty for gay sex.

Led by human rights activist Peter Tatchell, several hundred people gathered outside the hotel, many armed with rainbow flags, placards and banners calling for homophobia to be stamped out.

A tough penal code in the tiny country on tropical -- ruled by the all-powerful -- came fully into force last Wednesday after several years of delay.

It has sparked a storm of global criticism from politicians, celebrities and rights groups, with and pop star calling for Brunei-owned hotels to be boycotted.

"It's a good way... to make it clear that they don't support the actions of the Sultan of Brunei," said protester Matthew Robins, 38, a solicitor, of the boycott call.

Tatchell told the crowd if failed to revoke the laws, the -- which has a military garrison there -- should sever ties with its former protectorate.

"If the Sultan will not listen to reason and compassion we believe the should sever all diplomatic, economic and military ties with the regime," he said.

Britain's government has described the new laws, which also include the amputation of hands and feet for thieves, as "a backward step" for

However, it has resisted calls for a stronger response over the penal code, including for the Commonwealth -- a bloc of former British colonies -- to consider expelling

Mark Fields, a junior foreign minister, on Thursday told the House of Commons: "Rather than making threats... a more positive way is to try to hold them close, recognise that there are very some strong connections there." Elsewhere, pressure has continued to build on Brunei.

The said Saturday it would reconsider its decision to award an honorary degree to the Sultan.

It added it shared the "revulsion" of the laws and that the decision to confer the honorary degree to Bolkiah in 1993 would be reconsidered through its "established process".

Meanwhile on Thursday said it had removed the Brunei-owned Collection group from the list of hotels its employees use.

The Collection said in a statement it was "deeply saddened" by the protests against the group.

"We understand people's anger and frustration but this is a political and religious issue that we don't believe should be played out in our hotels and amongst our 3,630 employees," it added.

First Published: Sat, April 06 2019. 23:45 IST
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